By Henry Umoru
IN the last few months, it has been hectic moments for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as it moved from one imbroglio to the other. At the heart of the problem in the party is the in – house struggle about who is in charge.
Against the backdrop of the unfolding crisis which emanated from the August 31 Special Convention of the party to right the wrongs that were made during the March 2012 National Convention, one would say these may not be the best moments for the Alhaji Bamanga Tukur-led National Working Committee, NWC, when viewed from Tukur ‘s desire to have a total reconciliation of aggrieved persons in the party.
Crisis ensued when the party split into two with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and six northern governors staging a walk out at the Special Convention to later address a press conference on the formation of a ‘New PDP’ with Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State in attendance and former Acting National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, being named the National Chairman while Sam Sam Jaja was announced as Deputy National Chairman and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola National Secretary.
Only last week, the Appeal Court quashed a High Court order which removed Oyinlola as the PDP National Secretary late last year. Subject to his reinstatement, Oyinlola will be scribe to the mainstream PDP. But his colleagues in the rebel group, at the weekend, were said to have seen the Oyinlola court victory as a prelude to their taking over of the mainstream PDP.
The governors in the rebel group are Sule Lamido of Jigawa State; Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara; Aliyu Babangida of Niger; Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto; Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano; and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa. The crisis has been interpreted in some quarters as a move by some PDP leaders to take control of the party structure at different levels ahead of the 2015 general elections.
Since the governors and other members of their group including Vice President Atiku Abubakar walked out of the August 31 PDP convention at Eagle Square, Abuja, it has been one attack after the other on the Baraje led group to weaken the leaders of the ‘New PDP’ in their respective states. The first action against Baraje and his group came barely twenty- four hours after former President President Olusegun Obasanjo led other elders of the party on a trouble shooting mission and met with the leaders of the party as well as the aggrieved governors, with a vow to bring peace to the party.
Also at the Obasanjo’s meeting were former military President Ibrahim Babangida; Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, Chief Tony Anenih; former PDP National Chairmen, Dr. Ahmadu Ali and Senator Barnabas Gemade. The meeting had hardly ended when heavily armed police men sealed off the Baraje group’s proposed secretariat under renovation at Plot 3206A, No 4, Oyi River Crescent, Maitama, Abuja on Saturday, September, 7.
Police action Reacting to the closure of the secretariat, the faction’s National Secretary, Oyinlola, who noted that they were not surprised by the action taken by the Tukur-led PDP to use the police to shut the office, however, described it as the height of impunity, adding that security forces were mobilised to seal off the office based on a non-existent court injunction which the Tukur faction claimed to have obtained.
Defending the closure of the Baraje group secretariat by his men, the Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Femi Ogunbayode, said the police took the action to ensure that there was no breach of peace, adding that a court order directed the two factions to maintain the status quo.
In a reprisal move, Tukur sacked the Kano State PDP Working Committee, SWC, that was loyal to Kwankwaso and replaced it with an eleven- member caretaker committee led by Alhaji Hassan Kafayos and Andrew Musa as chairman and secretary, respectively.
As a follow up, the Tukur led PDP was said to have concluded arrangements to further alienate Kwankwaso as it was also said to have pleaded with the son of the late military head of state and former governorship aspirant of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in Kano State,
Mohammed Abacha, to join its fold. Mohammed Abacha stormed the party’s national secretariat with his supporters, dumped the CPC and bounced back to the PDP which he joined in 2010 but left same year. Not satisfied with the closure of the ‘New PDP’s’ secretariat, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, Senator Bala Mohammed, ordered his men in the Development Control to mark the place for demolition.
Following the closure of the Oyi River office, the Baraje-led faction immediately got Adamawa State Governor’s Lodge, at 12, Gurara Street, Maitama, as alternative office but the FCTA, on October 12, also sealed it on the grounds that the ‘New PDP’ was using the lodge for political activities as against its original purpose of being used meant for residential purpose.
On Friday, October 18, an Abuja Federal High Court, Abuja, presided over by Justice Elvis Chukwu, stopped Baraje and his group from parading themselves as the leadership of PDP, thereby declaring Tukur as the recognised and authentic PDP,even as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, threw its weight behind the Tukur-led NWC.
The ‘New PDP’ National Publicity Secretary, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, said the group was accepting the judgement, but vowed that the struggle continues, adding, “Even so, we have directed our legal team to appeal the judgement as a matter of urgency as we remain convinced that we have a good case and are thus determined to ensure that Tukur and his cohorts are not allowed to hold sway as the leaders of our great party.”
The FCTA immediately unsealed the Adamawa Governor’s Lodge.
The battle for supremacy took at twist when the Baraje group, on Sunday, October 27, cried out that its members had become endangered species following the clampdown on them and also alleged that plans had been concluded to go after senators and members of the House of Representatives who are members of the group with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under an operation code-named, “Operation Coerce Them Back to Tukur”.
Same day, the police stormed the Sokoto Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja where the splinter group of the PDP was holding a meeting and chased those there out.
The group then reassembled at the Kano Lodge also in Asokoro where the meeting eventually held.
Besides Aliyu and Ahmed, all the G7 Governors were in attendance. Also at the meeting were former governor of Kebbi State and minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration during late President Umaru Yar’adua, Senator Adamu Aliero, a new member of the group ; former governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Saraki; former governor of Gombe State, Senator Danjuma Goje; former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu; Baraje; Jaja; Oyinlola; PDP National Vice Chairman, North West, Ibrahim Kazuare; Kassim Shettima, among others.
Eze, in a statement after the meeting, said that as part of clampdown on its members, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Abubakar, was said to have ordered the immediate withdrawal of security aides attached to Goje and Saraki.
Order from above refused
The police action against the G7 governors was to be repeated one week later, precisely Sunday, November 3 at their meeting, scheduled for the Sokoto Governor’s Lodge, Abuja.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that heavily armed police men were deployed to the meeting venue on the order of the Presidency with the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Asokoro, CSP Nnanna Ama leading his men.
When the governors got wind that CSP Nnanna Ama was outside the Governor’s Lodge, they asked him to be brought into the meeting hall. About 10 minutes after, the DPO left after he was briefed about the private nature of the meeting.
Present at the meeting were the governors of Kano, Jigawa; Adamawa; Rivers and Niger, just as the governors of Sokoto and Kwara State were absent.
Baraje, Jaja, Oyinlola, among other members of the ‘New PDP’ were also in attendance.
Members of the National Assembly who are members of the Baraje group had, prior to the governors’ meeting, held a meeting at the same lodge and, shortly into the meeting of the governors, the Asokoro DPO entered and exchanged hot words with the aide-de-camp to Kwankwaso, claiming he had instructions from the Presidency that the meeting must not take place.
The governors refused the order as the meeting continued and ended at 10. 25pm.
Speaking with journalists at the end of the meeting, Secretary of the group, Oyinlola, said, “We were holding our meeting with the governors when the DPO of Asokoro came in to say that he had instructions to disperse us from holding the meeting or else effect arrest. We were surprised thatthis happened in spite of the fact that consultations on the resolution of the PDP crisis have been put on hold as a result of the pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Mecca.
”And it was made known to all Nigerians that we will continue after the pilgrimage break. It is for the continuation of the reconciliation process that we were meeting here only for the DPO to come. And we said ‘okay, if you had instructions that we should not hold meeting, we are ready to be arrested’. We felt that this is the height of impunity for a DPO to have the guts to tell a group of governors to say we cannot meet. I think it was not as bad as this even during the military era.
”We told him that we were ready for arrest and he should go and bring his troops to effect the arrest. So, we continued the meeting and we finished our meeting.
”The resolution was that we should continue the meeting that was postponed with the President. That was he essence of the meeting. We have not come to that.”
A plot of land belonging to Kwankwaso was also revoked on the grounds that it had extended into what the FCTA termed ‘the Green Area’.
‘Alleged inciting statement’
The decision of Bayelsa State government to place the leader of the New PDP in the state, Mr. Richard Kpodo, who is also a former Special Adviser to former Governor Timipre Sylva on Security Matters, under security watch over an “alleged inciting statement” was also linked to the crisis in the ruling party.
Also marked for demolition is an event centre, A-Park Gardens, owned by one of the members of the Baraje group, Senator Aisha Alhassan, Taraba North, located near the OAU Quarters, Maitama District, Abuja, under the excuse by the FCTA that government wants to use the land for monorail.. Alhassan said the action was malicious, unjust and politically motivated.
Defending the planned demolition, Minister of FCTA, Mohammed, on October 27, 2013, said Alhassan was given quit notice to dismantle the structures from the public transit way located between Wuse A07 and Maitama A06 April 13th, 2011 by the Development Control of the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA.
Chronicling the experiences of members of the Baraje-led PDP, Eze said, “The past few weeks in particular have witnessed the implementation of a well coordinated and systematic plot to traumatise, annihilate and cripple us economically and politically in flagrant disregard of Chapter IV Section 33 to 45 of the Nigerian Constitution that guarantees our fundamental human rights as Nigerians. A few examples of the excesses of these agents of confusion and enemies of democracy would suffice:
”Contrary to the provisions of Chapter IV Sections 42, 43 and 44 of the Constitution which guarantee our right as Nigerians to acquire and own property in any part of the country, our National Secretariat and most of our State Secretariats have been sealed up by the Police on the orders of those in power. This is despite the fact that we still have a court case against Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and his National Working Committee (NWC).
”Two weeks ago, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) in its over zealousness to please President Jonathan marked our sealed National Secretariat for demolition on the laughable excuse that it was originally approved as a residential building. Yet this property was being used as the National Secretariat of another political party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), before New PDP acquired it – and the same FCTA kept mute! At that time, the FCTA did not realise that it violated land use but it now wants to demolish the building in a hurry simply because the authorities perceive the new owner (New PDP) to be anti-government! What is more, the Adamawa State Lodge, also in Abuja, which we were using as temporary National Secretariat, has also been sealed off on the flimsy excuse that the area is not for commercial activities!
”This invidious crackdown has been extended to individual leaders of the New PDP. The legally acquired Abuja property of His Excellency, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, the Governor of Kano State, has been revoked by the tyrannical Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed. The same treatment has been meted to Senator Aisha Al-Hassan from Taraba State, whose event centre, A-Park Gardens, which has been in operation all these years, has suddenly been revoked by the FCTA and slated to be demolished at any time from now. Information available to us indicates that property in Abuja owned by other New PDP leaders may suffer the same fate.
“Today, the security details attached to Senators Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Danjuma Goje, former Governors of Kwara and Gombe states respectively, have been withdrawn; so, too, the security details attached to our National Chairman, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje. Of course, Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State was the first victim and now operates without an ADC and a CSO in order to pave way for his kidnapping or assassination if peaceful ways of removing him from office have fail. The police orderlies of the Rivers State SSG and those of Amaechi’s Chief of Staff have also been similarly withdrawn without any cogent reasons.
”The use of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to hound our members is no longer news. His Excellency Timipre Sylva, the former Governor of Bayelsa State, and Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki are two foremost examples. We understand that the worst is yet to come as this unserious organ masquerading as an anti-graft agency would soon be unleashed on all our key members in both the Senate and House of Representatives in an operation code-named “Operation Coerce Them Back to Tukur”.
”On its part, the Nigeria Police, which has woefully failed to find a solution to the menace of Boko Haram, kidnapping, assassination and other criminal acts ravaging the country, has been given a fresh mandate to frame up our members and term them criminals in order to keep them at bay. The experiment has already started in Bayelsa, the home state of President Jonathan, where 85% of the citizens have indicated interest to work against his second term ambition due to the total neglect of the state and the entire Niger Delta region by the present administration”.
Meanwhile, the PDP has said it will appeal the ruling reinstating Oyinlola as its National Secretary at the Supreme Court. It said it has also filed a motion to stay the execution of the Appeal Court ruling pending the suit at the apex court. Following the crackdown on the “rebellious” members of the PDP, questions are being asked. Is it a case of politics or egotism, or is it a case of silencing the splinter group ahead of 2015 ?
Or will truce be brokered like Vice President Namadi Sambo said October 31, at Wadata Plaza during the inauguration of the National Campaign Committee for Anambra State governorship election that there will always be fight in politics and pleaded with all aggrieved G7 Governors, other members of the party to sheathe their swords and return in full to the fold of the PDP?
We watch as events unfold in the PDP family.